Wives Giving Up on Hubby

“You’ve given up on dad, haven’t you mum?”

“Try that strawberry slice. You’ll love it.”

“Mum! I’m serious. You’ve given up on dad, haven’t you?”

“Don’t be so silly. You’ll understand relationships better when you’ve been married to Brad as long as dad and I’ve been married.”

“Mum, I don’t want to end up like you and dad. I don’t want to give up on Brad like you’ve given up on dad.”

“This really isn’t a nice way to have a mother – daughter catch up. Can’t we talk about something nicer?”

“It was auntie Barbara that made me see it?”

“What does my silly sister have to say about my marriage? It’s none of her business!”

“No, she hasn’t said anything. But I’ve been watching. When uncle Max was diagnosed last year I saw auntie Barbara change overnight. Suddenly she was caring and kind to him. I’d never seen her like that before.”

“Well, the poor old goat gave us all a scare there for a while.”

“Yes, but it showed me that auntie Barbara had given up on him. She’d kind of cornered him out of her life, until he took sick.”

“Well, your uncle is a difficult man. I tried to warn her, but she thought she knew best. She got what she deserved as far as I’m concerned. She could have had a gentleman, but she fell for Mad Max.”

“Mum. You’ve frozen dad out of your life.”

“That is a terribly impertinent thing to say!”

“Mum, it’s true. You avoid him. You don’t like him. You frown at him, mock him and find any excuse to be away from him. You’ve given up on dad.”

“I haven’t given up on him. I’m still with him, aren’t I? God knows how hard that is at times.”

“I don’t want to give up on Brad.”

“Well, my dear, men aren’t always what they seem. And you put your hopes in them and they let you down. Your fantasies won’t change the realities of life.”

“So, are you angry at dad?”

“No! I’m not angry. I may be disappointed, but I’m not angry. I got over that years ago.”

“But you gave up on him.”

“You keep saying that and it’s not true. I’m still married to him. I still cook his meals, wash his clothes and we still go to bed together.”

“Mum I care about Brad. I want him to be happy. I want him to succeed. I want him to be delighted in me. But you don’t feel that way about dad.”

“It’s called growing up. Or call it ‘reality check’ if you want. Brad is not going to be the man you want him to be.”

“Maybe so, but I still don’t want to give up on him.”

“Well, we’ll see about that.”

“I made a promise to love him for better and for worse. If I start to despise him isn’t that because I’m thinking about myself and not him?”

“Do you know how difficult it is to live with dad? We always talked about moving into a bigger house and now he’s set on staying where we are because he likes it here. And he still sings Sinatra songs in the toilet, at the top of his voice. The neighbours tell me that Frankie was in good voice this morning. I know we can afford to go to Bali, but he just doesn’t want to go. I’ve given up a lot to be married to your father.”

“Mum, you’re talking like dad owes you something. Your talking like it’s all about YOU.”

“Well, I have a right to be happy. ‘The pursuit of happiness’; isn’t that what life is all about?”

“Mum, if you are living for yourself then of course you’ll despise dad. But if you saw yourself as dad’s treasure, you wouldn’t give up on him.”

“Honey, I didn’t plan to give up. But your dad is impossible. Do you know he still puts his elbows on the table, after all these years? I’ve had to give up nagging him, because he just ignores me. And he still wipes his hands on my clean tea-towels and then leaves them bunched on the bench. I think he just does that to infuriate me. If I didn’t ‘give up’ as you put it, I’d have gone crazy by now.”

“Mum, I believe I am God’s gift to Brad. I am his helper. So I have to help HIM, not myself. I want to bless him, for who he is, even though he won’t be all I want him to be.”

“Well you just keep at that as long as you can, honey, because I don’t see you keeping that attitude for very long.”

“Mum, I don’t want to discover that I can love him, and care for him, and put up with his foibles just because they gave him a few months to live. If I can do it because he’s dying then I can do it while he’s strong and healthy too, can’t I?”

“You’re a good girl. You’ve always been idealistic. So what can I say? Yes, you can do it. You go ahead and do it.”

“Mum, would you help me?”

“Your relationship with Brad is your own business. I don’t believe in meddling in my children’s marriages.”

“Mum, would you show me how to not give up? Would you show me that you can still care for dad, even though he annoys you as much as he does?”

“That’s a big ask, my dear. I don’t want to make that kind of promise.”

“Then, would you let us work together? Maybe if we help each other we can both learn how to never give up on our husbands.”

Baby in the Womb

A lovely young couple are currently expecting their first child. I recently felt to encourage the young dad to speak to his unborn baby. I asked if he spoke to the baby in the womb. He replied that his wife spoke to the baby at times, but he didn’t do it.

That prompted me to reflect on how we respond to the baby in the womb, especially the first one coming along.

New Relationship

Each new baby opens up for us a new relationship. With the first child we open up a whole new level of relationship. And like all new things we often face them with no real preparation. Often we don’t know that we have left things undone until many years later.

I have seven children and I have a unique relationship with each one of them. I can’t say that I have built the most exemplary relationships with them. In fact, at first, I assumed that relationship would just happen automatically. As a consequence the relationships are not as sweet or deep as they could have been.

Learning to Relate

I stumbled into relationship with my children. Because I didn’t have a concept of building relationship I ended up having to maintain relationship as a reaction to what went wrong, rather than as one building correctly from day one. My relationships grew out of the upsets, the good times and the bad times along the way. I thought that was the normal way to build relationships.

Many people do not have strong relationship skills. We usually have weaknesses in our ability, based on our own past failed relationships.

It is important to learn to relate to the child, as a conscious skill development. The new relationship is very important and needs to be pursued with intention. For those who are about to enter into relationship with a child about to be born it is important to promote the relationship rather than to just let it happen.

How to Build Relationship

Here are some suggestions for getting started on a good relationship, even whieh the baby is in the womb.

Value the relationship. Good relationships with children are incredibly valuable. Just ask anyone who lives with a broken or poor relationship with their child. Don’t take it for granted. Don’t be too casual about it. Be determined to build relationship and to so connect with your child that you are closely bonded for the rest of your lives.

Speak to your baby. There are lovely testimonies of people who have been strongly influenced by what they heard before they were born. One testimony speaks of a newborn baby in distress who settled immediately on hearing their father’s voice in the hospital ward. The baby had heard the father read the Bible to it each day as it formed in the womb. That baby knew its father’s voice from the womb and felt security from it once it was born.

Speak comfortably to your child. Over the years and from an early start, tell your child how valuable and special they are in your life. Speak of your love for them and your commitment to them. You are your child’s champion and hero, so speak into that role and encourage your child to walk in confidence because of your commitment and support.

Cast Godly vision for your child. Speak often to your child about your vision of their on-going place in your life and your on-going place in their life. Talk to them about how you are going to introduce them to God and often take them into God’s presence with you. Talk about how you are going to help them find God’s wisdom in the many challenges they will face through their childhood and youth. Speak about the times you will hug them and comfort them in the future and wipe away their tears.

If you have a daughter you can cast the vision of walking her down the aisle on her wedding day, to marry a young man who you have tested out to be suited for her. If you have a son you can cast the vision of them walking into their own areas of responsibility with the skills which you have taught them over the years and with your active support.

Love Your Child

The new relationship you will enjoy with the baby about to be born will be a relationship of love. You will have a new person to love for the rest of your life.

If you are casual about the relationship then it may never become a healthy and happy relationship. A love relationship requires that you love the child and encourage them to love you in return.

Don’t see this child as just a ‘baby’ or ‘another mouth to feed’. This child is potentially the most special person in your life. While the marriage union is always to be held above relationship with the child, yet the bond and delight that can come from the child can be incredibly enriching to your life.

Alternatively you can raise a child who despises you, cannot relate to you and who brings great pain and trouble into your life.

Get Started Now

Don’t wait until your child is old enough to help you in the kitchen or workshop. Don’t wait until they are adult. Don’t wait until they have gotten past their childish ways.

Get started now. Start building close and intimate bonds with your child from the moment they are conceived. Build it for life, not for a temporary moment.

If you are a new parent please take it from me as an older dad, that you need to take the relationship seriously, not for granted.

You have no guarantee of the child’s affection for you. If you send them to pre-school and school they will be sorely tempted to bond with their peers and not with you. When you let them down, or they feel like you have – even if you haven’t – they will pull back from you.

Make a priority of building special relationship, right from the start. Get connected with that baby in the womb.

I’m Older Now

That eager lad dashed about with inexhaustible energy. And he bore an idealism fitting for his youth. He didn’t know the tears and toil that time would add to his account.

He knelt in prayer and dedicated every waking breath. And then he stood and spent himself for everyone who called. Silly boy! How they used him up. Those hours and early starts. Those freezing nights and back-breaking loads. Those long, long days in unrelenting sun.

Yet he kept his word and stepped up again and again. They patted him on the head and said nice things about him. Without him much would never have occurred. His back carried the load. His car carried the people. His phone made the calls. His ear listened to the complaints and woes. It kept him on his toes.

The process finally found its end. A young woman won his heart and laid her own claim on his time. Something had to give and so, slowly, the zealous investment was tempered by other calls for his money, time and mind.

He moved on. New pressures called him to the mill. He earned his keep and hers. Together they built a life and did what they could in their spare time.

Marriage and family, renting and working gobbled up the years and put them in the suburbs. Hopes came and went. Projects were launched and spent.

Old sermons didn’t stir as they had before. Other people’s needs were dismissed as impossibilities now. Someone else would have to pay the price that once he’d paid. Others would have to bear the loads he bore. Someone else would have to be the bunny for all who needed a lackey.

His wife and his life, his children and his bills kept him in the real world where dreams were out of place. Yesterday’s ideals were boxed with other relics of his naive youth. How silly to be so simple and so sold out. How fruitless all those miles and hours and aches and pains.

But then…. the heart always retained a sense of that call felt long ago.

While stiffer limbs and double chin replaced the skinny zest,
the youthful zeal, now hardly real was never laid to rest.

Often o’er the years a flow of tears trickled to sermons preached.
The call still echoed there buried by life’s care yet still alive enough to now be reached.

And so it was that an older man stumbled to the altar and stood among a crowd of eager youth. As they committed themselves to serve the Lord with all they had to give he scanned the zealous ones with memories of his journey long ago.

“I’m older now”, he thought. “And do not come with the ignorance of youth. I know now what I did not know back then. I once launched off with wild, untamed enthusiasm. Ideals and imagination pulled me to the front to throw myself unmeasured to the cause.”

“But now I’m not a lad. I’m no longer wet behind the ears. I’m calloused by the passing years. I stand here with stiff knees and workman’s hands. I stand here with my debts and all my life’s demands.”

“I stand here to the call. It asks me for my all. And I have stumbled forward once again.
I know the price to pay. I know what my wife will say. But I’m not here to serve the Lord in vain.”

And there among those crying youth a man bent down to pray. His lowered chubby torso conspicuous among the rest. He’s older now. And he kneels like he’s never knelt before. This is no repeat of youthful zeal. This is something deeper, and more real.

Here is one who knows the price. Here is one who feels the weight. Here is one who drags himself back to where he has been.

A special trumpet voluntary was composed in heaven that day. The angels love to play it when they can. It speaks of those older, wiser ones who’ve chosen to go all the way. It celebrates the yielded-ness of man.

Broken Home is a House Divided

When a parent leaves the marriage the home is broken. At the same time the house is divided. I never realised that until a discussion I had recently with a woman who knew this all too well from personal experience.

The Single Mum

A single mother who had raised her children without the husband’s input for many years recently told me about a conversation she had with one of her children. She had faithfully brought her children up to a set of values which she believed were right. She taught her children to love their daddy but not to follow his inappropriate behaviours. In her mind she had brought them up the “right way”.

Because of her diligent instruction to her children and their choices to follow her wisdom she felt confident that she had protected her children from the wrong influence of her husband’s values. A comment from one of her children showed her otherwise.

A House Divided

As this single mum raised her children in a happy family unit for many years she came to see that the family was united. She also saw that she had given her children clear guidance, leading them to her set of values as the right way for their lives.

In discussion with one of her children she remarked about what she had sought to achieve and she was surprised by the child’s response.

Her child pointed out to her that all their lives the children felt that there were two choices before them, not one. While the mother felt she had created a house in which there was only one value being upheld, the children grew up with a different reality. For them the house was divided.

Two Paths To Choose

Each of the children well knew the values taught them by their mum. They enjoyed their upbringing and the home she had made safe and productive for them. But they were also painfully aware of their dad’s choices and values.

Even though those values were not a part of their family home with their mum, those values were none-the-less part of their life.

Mum had clearly made her choice. She stuck by her values and her commitments and invested all her energies into making up for the father’s abandonment of the children and the marriage. She had successfully excluded the dad’s values from the day to day life within the home. But those values still resonated in the children’s hearts.

Each child knew that they had two heritages to draw from. They had their mother’s values inculcated within them. But they also had direct lineage to a dad who lived by other values. Each child, therefore, lived with the reality that they had two paths to choose between.

Parents Can’t Make the Choice

Sadly, each individual must make their own choices. Parents can’t make the choices for their children. Parents can guide, instruct and inspire their children, but each child must take personal responsibility for what they do in response to the guidance and input given.

This godly mum had done all in her power to give her children the best possible preparation for right choices. But she could not exclude the influence of wrong choices from those children, since they had a direct link to other values.

Unseen Division

The mum realised that, while she was not living with a divided home or a divided heart, her children had to struggle with an unseen division. They were the product of both the mum and the dad and had direct lineage to both the paths being modelled for them. The mum did not live with division, but her children did.

While the mum took it for granted that the children would make the right choices, by virtue of their upbringing, she did not account for the personal reality of division which each child struggled with. While the domestic home was united as mother and children, the reality of a house divided could not be removed.

The Two Parent Home

The two parent home has an incredible advantage over the single mum or single dad home. Where one of the parents has chosen to abandon the home, for whatever reason, the home is divided. But where both husband and wife live together and cooperate together there is a quality of unity that is invaluable.

Children growing in a two parent home still have to make their own choices. But they do not grow up with the ever present reality of division and alternative paths to choose from. Godly parents in a strong, healthy family are able to build levels of security and maturity into their children, without the presence of a divided heart from a divided home.

All Is Not Lost

Our natural upbringing does not make us. We make choices and set the course for our life, despite the other influences that impact us. So, all is not lost in a broken home or divided home context.

God gives us a new heart when we give ourselves to Him. Even our divided heart can be transformed and healed by our relationship with the Living God.

However it is wise to be aware of what you are dealing with and to give your children the best help you can to succeed in life. That, of course, is more than a stable home with a strong marriage. The best you can give them is an intimate, faith-filled relationship with God as their Father, through faith in Jesus Christ as their Saviour and Lord.

Marriage Defined

Your working definition for marriage will impact what you are building and how you deal with it. The way you see something impacts how you understand it, value it and treat it. Consequently definitions are very important.

In my book, Mending Marriages, I take a good look at people’s working definitions for marriage. The reason some people need their marriage mended is because they have built the wrong thing on the wrong definition in the first place.

Casual observers see marriage as a ‘relationship’. That’s probably the universal starting point. However the nature of that relationship is where marriages come unglued.

To some people the marriage relationship is a special and life-long bond. Others have a much more casual definition of that relationship, seeing it as a temporary linking which will be broken when better or different alternatives come along.

A good working definition of marriage must bring clarity about the nature of the ‘relationship’.

The next key consideration is the functional aspect of the relationship. How are the couple to maintain their life together? What is the nature of their cooperation? While this is an aspect of the definition of the relationship it bears specific attention as it gives the practical expression of that relationship.

As an initial definition we can thus say that marriage is “a special relationship that fits special structural requirements”.

And that’s where the fun begins. What is the ‘special relationship’ and what are the ‘special structural requirements’? Around the world and through history many variations of both those aspects have been explored. Currently there is a push to move away from the history-long model of a man and a woman in a unique relationship. While alternative relationships have existed they have not been recognised as ‘marriage’, which status is seen as Holy Grail by some people.

Throughout history the ubiquitous model of marriage has placed the main responsibility for the relationship and its maintenance with the man. While modern sensibilities try to demean this reality it remains the most enshrined working model for marriage. Historically, all around the world, the vast majority of marriages have been established on the responsibility of the male, who creates a place of nurture for his wife and children. The wife is thus able to concentrate on her nurture of the children and her husband, while the man deals with the outside world and brings provision for his family.

In view of that long tested model it could be argued that the best way to destroy marriage is to demean men, taking their leadership from them. This will break up the family unit, bring uncertainty and insecurity and rob the home of the stabilising nurture of the mother.

Sadly we see much of that outcome already at work in many western families. While the western family home was a model of mutual benefit for the majority just a century ago, it is now an empty place, devoid of much that is needed to grace the human soul.

The most eminently qualified person to provide a powerful working definition for marriage is God. God created marriage and gave it as a gift to mankind. So God knows how it was designed to work. God knows what both husband and wife must do in order to fulfil the marriage relationship and build an effective family unit.

The Bible gives the most valuable and comprehensive insights into how marriage was designed and what we must to do enjoy its fullest benefits. The marriage relationship is best defined as that bond between a man and a woman which unites them in the relationship which God created for them.

Through the pages of the Bible we discover many things which impact the definition of marriage. We discover that it is God’s creation, not man’s creation. It is a holy union, not a relationship of convenience. Its purposes are divine, not human. Its roles are prescribed by God, not dictated by the power players in any given culture.

The bond is created by God, not the couple. A couple cannot pronounce themselves to be ‘married’. God joins the couple together. It is therefore a ‘holy estate’, not a social construct. And since God joins them together man and woman do not have the power to revoke it. God makes it and man cannot ‘un-make’ it.

God has prescribed specific and unique responsibilities to the man and the woman in marriage. These are not a matter of negotiation by the couple. They are prescribed by God and we will each be judged by God on how well we fulfil His demands, despite what we or our spouse think of the arrangements we have come to between each other.

The ‘relationship’ that is created, therefore, is a moral bond, established by God. It is not principally a social union, but a moral one. Each marriage union is a unique bond, excluding all others. It has the quality of a legal bond, since all who violate it are breaking God’s law.

The marriage union allows the couple to enter a unique moral connection where intimacy between them is made perfectly legitimate and holy. It confers on the couple exclusive sexual privileges.

Altogether, then, marriage is an amazing and awesome divine gift to humanity. Sadly many people do not understand what it is and so they enter into it lightly and without respect for their responsibilities or the accountability they have before God for their handling of His created union.

That’s why I bring the subject up along the way, in various forms. People need their eyes opened to this amazing moral union and its implications. That’s not just for their own sake, but for the sake of their spouse, their descendents and the culture in which they live. When God’s Kingdom comes it must impact the domestic home as much as the global environment or governmental circles.

Now, having given you this lengthy explanation, have a look at the definition of marriage which I present in Mending Marriages.

“Marriage is a unique, irrevocable, legal and moral bond created by God between a man and a woman who commit themselves to each other for life-long union, conferring on them exclusive sexual privileges and offering them loving relationship, mutual co-operation and personal investment in each other, in a divinely ordained structure and process in which both fulfil their unique, divinely created responsibilities, which they are to follow in the fear of God, with God’s gracious endowment and for God’s glory, conferring on them God’s personal blessings through each other as they create an effective and meaningful social unit with unique, multi-generational significance.”

May this very relationship be yours.